The Houston Rockets came into this year’s NBA free agency with a significant amount of cap space and general manager Rafael Stone did not hesitate to use it.

Houston kicked off free agency with a bang, signing 2019 NBA champion and one-time NBA All-Star Fred VanVleet to a three-year, $130 million contract. The deal made the 29-year-old point guard the highest paid undrafted player in league history and officially marked the end of his seven-year tenure with the only team that he has played for in the NBA, the Toronto Raptors.

The 6’1 VanVleet averaged 19.3 points, three three-pointers, 4.1 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 1.8 steals in 69 regular season appearances with the Raptors last season. These numbers could potentially see a spike with the Rockets as he will become the focal point of their attack under newly-appointed head coach Ime Udoka.

VanVleet gives the Rockets a dynamic offensive threat on the court, but his biggest contribution may come off the court. His championship experience gives him the gravitas to command respect from Houston’s younger players whose development and maturity will be crucial for this team’s ultimate success.

The biggest individual beneficiary from VanVleet’s arrival should be the Rockets’ incoming third-year shooting guard Jalen Green. The 21-year-old Filipino-American saw his counting stats take a leap in his second year where he averaged 22.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game, yet these numbers masked his struggles with efficiency. Green’s shooting percentages actually declined across the board in his second year when compared with his rookie campaign while his turnovers saw a notable uptick from two a night to 2.6.

Now that he will be playing with a bonafide playmaker like VanVleet for the first time in his career, Green is expected to blossom and take his game to another level. The presence of VanVleet will give him much more open looks and relieve him of some pressure in carrying the scoring load for Houston. With VanVleet running the show, Green can now focus his attention on getting open looks and it may also free up energy for him to exert himself more on defense.

Aside from VanVleet, the Rockets have also enlisted three other veteran players in Dillion Brooks, Jeff Green, and Jock Landale.

The acquisition of Brooks came with a notable price tag as Houston signed last season’s NBA All-Defensive Second Team member to a four-year, $80 million contract. Though Brooks has become known more for his on-court antics more than anything, he remains a strong and versatile defender who can take on the task of defending the best perimeter player on opposing teams.

If Houston wants to make it back to the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2020, having a defensive-minded player like Brooks is a must which somewhat justifies the price that they had to pay for the former Memphis Grizzly.

Meanwhile, the 36-year-old Jeff Green, who finally won the first NBA championship of his 15-year NBA career last month with the Denver Nuggets, and the former Phoenix Sun Landale will provide the Rockets with a reliable anchor in their second unit. Their leadership will be especially crucial for Houston as their bench will be led by 20-year-old point guard Amen Thompson who was the fourth overall pick of this year’s NBA Draft.

Thompson, together with 23-year-old Kevin Porter Jr. and incoming sophomore Tari Eason, should benefit from sharing the floor with more experienced players such as Jeff Green and Landale. The 6’7 Thompson will also benefit from his role as an understudy to VanVleet who has gained respect around the NBA for his relentless work ethic.

The signing of VanVleet and Brooks to these hefty contracts may wind up becoming “training wheels” in the development of this team. It would not come as a surprise if they are eventually traded away even before these contracts that they just signed come to an end, especially if the development of Houston’s younger players is ahead of schedule.

The situation with Thompson will be an interesting one to look out for in particular as he is quite obviously a bigger part of the Rockets’ plans for the future vis-a-vis VanVleet.

Although these moves are, by far, not enough to bring the Rockets back into contention, they are a solid start to what is looking like an exciting next few years for this franchise. Houston is now fueling up and it is only a matter of time before this team is once again ready for take-off.